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Pot-bellied pig is downtown celebrity

By Gheni_Platenburg
July 28, 2011 at 2:28 a.m.

Sun bathing in the late afternoon Merle, who was named after the singer Merle Haggard, blissfully sleeps his troubles away. Weighing in at more than 200 pounds, Merle pretty much does what he wants, when he wants.

Between the Romanesque architecture of the old Victoria County Courthouse and the pristine beauty of the gazebo in De Leon Plaza, Downtown Victoria is filled with sights to see.

But for the past four years, one unofficial attraction not listed in the visitors' guide has also managed to garner a fair amount of attention from residents and visitors alike, often prompting passersby to do a double take.

That attraction is a black, 200-something pound, pot-bellied pig named Merle, who lives at the intersection of William Street and Goodwin Avenue

"People would always ask me what kind of dog he was," Todd Jett said laughingly while watching Merle enjoy his daily fix of Planter's large Virginian peanuts. "I'd tell them he was a pig."

Not exactly the most common type of pet seen within city limits, even in Texas, Merle, who has become somewhat of a neighborhood celebrity, stands out amidst the setting of downtown professional buildings and traditional neighborhood dogs and cats.

"He's kind of cute," said Jett, 51. "He used to get up to greet (visitors), but now due to his temperament and weight, he'll just lay there and look at them."

Merle joined the Jett family four years ago when he was just a piglet.

Jett said he and his wife, Charli Donoghue-Jett, an animal lover whose grandfather raised The Black Stallion at Donahue Arabian Stables in Goliad, were sitting in the El Rodeo restaurant one Spring 2007 morning having breakfast tacos when he casually picked up a copy of the American Classifieds.

As if it were fate, he turned to the livestock section where he spotted an advertisement for a pot-bellied piglet.

"I was just making a joke. I read "Pot-bellied pig $25," he said. "If I had of kept my mouth shut, he wouldn't be here."

A country boy at heart, Merle, who is named after country singer Merle Haggard, spends his days happily napping, getting his exercise around the yard, and socializing with The Jett's two dogs, two llamas, four cats and one bunny.

"Merle's just like any other pig. He likes country western music and he likes Miller High-Life," said Jett, who described Merle as being moody in the morning and gregarious in the evening. "He's a moderate drinker."

When asked if Merle knew any tricks, Jett replied, "He makes food disappear."

Merle has a fan base of admirers from near and far.

"I get people who just stop by and ask about Merle," said Jett. " They want to know where he is today and how he's doing."

He's also a big hit among his neighbors.

"He's adorable. My kids like to go by and see him," said neighbor Hillory Carrigan. "I actually want one."

Although Merle is loads of fun, Jet said Merle's size does pose a problem from time to time for his family who run an installation business and enjoy traveling.

"If we leave, it's not like we can take him to a kennel. We have to actually have someone come feed him," said Jett, who also said the veterinarian has to come to the house since Merle is unable to travel.

Despite the issues that may arise from having an animal of Merle's size, Jett said the family wouldn't trade Merle for anything.

"Merle is part of the family," said Jett. "He's just one of God's creatures."

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